Elijah Macon is a rising junior into the 2016-17 season. He has only played in two full seasons with the Mountaineers, but it seems like the hype around him has lasted much longer.
The Columbus, Ohio native played at the prestigious basketball academy of Huntington Prep, as well as Brewster Academy before joining the Mountaineers.
The long road took him from his native Ohio, to West Virginia, to New Hampshire and, now, back to West Virginia. However, Mountaineer fans may still be waiting for Macon to truly show up.
Last year, he scored 4.5 points per game while averaging 13.2 minutes per game. He will likely be a starter this season as fellow power forward Jonathan Holton is no longer with the team.
Macon has the skillset and the experience to thrive at a high level. So far, he just hasn’t been able to put his full package together on the court. Not only is that recognized by WVU head coach Bob Huggins and the fans, it’s a notion shared by members of the national media.
The Mountaineers definitely have the team to compete for a Big 12 championship next season. Although they lose Holton, big man Devin Williams and leading scorer Jaysean Paige, the Mountaineers return starters Nathan Adrian, Esa Ahmad, Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr.
That fifth spot will likely belong to Macon.
He is one of the tallest players on the team, though he might be masked by more prototypical centers as he stands at 6-foot-9. Incoming freshman Maciej Bender stands at 6-foot-10 and in-state prospect Logan Routt is 6-foot-11.
Bender may not start right away, but his competition should fuel Macon to perform at the top of his game to impress Huggins before the season begins.
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Macon’s last game with the Mountaineers was one all West Virginia fans would like to forget. As the Mountaineers fell, 70-56, to Stephen F. Austin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Macon saw just four minutes off the bench in a game where Huggins saw the writing on the wall.
The Lumberjacks were the more focused team and the Mountaineers could not stop a top scoring threat in SFA’s Thomas Walkup.
Macon can develop a better all-around game by focusing on defense. He won’t be the team’s go-to scorer because his ball-handling skills aren’t exactly as swift as a point guard. Hopefully, he has worked on that aspect of his game in the offseason.
Macon will have to rely on second-chance opportunities by becoming a better rebounder, too. He is a physically commanding player who needs to play within himself.
If he can prove himself on the defensive end, and at the top of West Virginia’s swarming press defense, he will find a better fit into Huggins’ system.
The opportunity is out there in front of him. Macon just has to accept a new, growing role.